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Sustaining ecological and subsistence functions in conservation areas: eider habitat and access by Native hunters along landfast ice

  • JAMES R. LOVVORN (a1), AARIEL R. ROCHA (a1), ANDREW H. MAHONEY (a2) and STEPHEN C. JEWETT (a3)
Summary

In the Arctic, rapid climate change has kindled efforts to delineate and project the future of important habitats for marine birds and mammals. These animals are vital to subsistence economies and cultures, so including the needs of both animals and hunters in conservation planning is key to sustaining social-ecological systems. In the northeast Chukchi Sea, a nearshore corridor of open water is a major spring migration route for half a million eider ducks that are hunted along the landfast ice. Zoning areas for industrial activities or conservation should consider both eider habitat and hunter access to those habitats from the variable ice edge. Based on benthic sampling in 2010‒2012, a model of eider foraging energetics and satellite data on ice patterns in April and May 1997‒2011, we mapped the range of positions of the landfast ice edge relative to a given dispersion of habitat suitable for eider feeding. In some sectors, feeding areas were too limited or too far from landfast ice to provide regular hunting access. In other sectors, overlap of the ice edge with eider feeding habitat was quite variable, but often within a consistent geographic range. Areas accessible to hunters were a small fraction of total eider habitat, so areas adequate for conserving eiders would not necessarily include areas that meet the hunters’ needs. These results can inform spatial planning of industrial activities that yield cash income critical to subsistence hunting in less developed locations. Our study provides an approach for mapping ‘subsistence conservation areas’ throughout the Arctic and an example for such efforts elsewhere.

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*Correspondence: Dr James R. Lovvorn email: lovvorn@siu.edu
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Supplementary material can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0376892918000103

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